Obituary – Professor Kirpal Singh Chugh

Professor Kirpal Singh Chugh, a past President of the Asia-Pacific Society of Nephrology, passed away at Chandigarh, India on 17 September 2017. He was 85.

After completing his basic medical training, Dr Chugh specialised in renal medicine using “Evaluation of renal biopsy as a diagnostic procedure” as his Thesis Topic. In 1965, he set up a nephrology department at the newly established Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, India. He had several firsts to his credit, including doing the first percutaneous kidney biopsy, first peritoneal dialysis and setting up the first nephrology training program in South Asia. He was key in setting up the Indian Society of Nephrology in 1970, and led for several years. He was also instrumental in publication of the Indian Journal of Nephrology.

His contributions to renal research in India are substantial. He did pioneering work in describing the epidemiology of various kidney diseases in India. His interests spanned the entire spectrum of nephrology and transplantation, evident from the large number of influential publications. He was particularly interested in the renal problem of the tropics. He set up a research laboratory at PGIMER where he worked on snake bite induced kidney injury.

His established the nephrology super specialty training program at PGIMER in1969, one of the first such programs in the world. This program produced a stream of nephrology trainees who have gone on to become leaders in nephrology in all corners of India and around the World, set up their own programs and gave rise to subsequent wave of trained nephrologists.

He was highly active in the international nephrology community, helped set up nephrology societies in almost all South Asian countries, and was one of the founders of the Asian Pacific Society of Nephrology. As he recalled “In 1972, I started corresponding with Dr Oshima in Japan and Dr Priscilla Kincaid-Smith in Australia, that we should form an Asian Society of Nephrology. Dr Oshima in 1973 wrote to me and asked me how many members we were in our society. I informed him that we were about 120 by that time. He wrote back to me that there were 2300 members in the Japanese Society and therefore, he thought, that at that time it was not possible to make an Asian Society until a sufficient number of countries from the region came up with a larger numbers of nephrologists. When we met in Singapore in another meeting, I again talked to Dr Priscilla Kincaid-Smith that we should work towards forming an Asian society of nephrology. In 1979 the first Asian Congress of Nephrology took place in Tokyo along with the Asian Colloquium in Nephrology. The second meeting of the Asian Pacific Congress took place in Melbourne in 1983 under the joint leadership of Dr Prsicilla Kincaid Smith and Dr Oshima. This was followed by the 3rd Asian Pacific Congress in Singapore in 1986. At the time of the Singapore meeting, we made a Council of elected representatives of the Asian Pacific Society of Nephrology. Dr Prsicilla Kincaid-Smith was elected as the first President. The fourth conference was held in Beijing where Dr Hatano was elected as the next President and I was elected as the President-Elect. Dr Hatano presided over the Fifth Asian Pacific Conference of Nephrology held in Delhi in 1992. I presided over the Sixth Conference in Hong Kong in 1995. So when other societies in the Asian region had become active, we had formed the Asian Pacific Society of Nephrology, which today has become a very important society in the world.”

He received numerous awards and accolades, including Padmashree, the fourth highest civilian award in India, the Bywaters Award of the International Society of Nephrology, the Oshima Award of the Asian Pacific Society of Nephrology, and the Distinguished Medal of the National Kidney Foundation of USA.

“Young nephrologists of today will hardly know the travails of the handful of nephrologists who established nephrology as a scientific discipline in this country, of whom Dr. Chugh was one of the first and certainly the most prominent. He will always have a special place in Indian nephrology, and in the great institution he founded.” – recalled Dr MK Mani, chief nephrologist at Apollo Hospital, Chennai and Prof Chugh’s peer.

Prof Chugh is survived by his wife, and two sons.


  • Prof. Vivek Jha

Professor Chugh receiving Oshima award at 2016 APCN/ANZSN Perth.